Non-resident Indians (NRI’s) and foreigners leaving the country are not permitted to exit in possession of the rupee and must subsequently exchange any rupees in their possession into a foreign currency before boarding their flight. While over time, it has been a common practice for travelers to keep some amount of Indian currency on them to avoid having to make another exchange upon their return to the country; it is not a permitted practice by law.
Before boarding the plane to exit the country, travelers are expected to visit one of the many kiosks located in the departure areas to exchange their Indian currency for another form of foreign currency. It is important to note that NRI’s are allowed to carry up to Rs 10,000 beyond the immigration and customs desks, and the duty-free shopping and security areas of international airports to accommodate any general purchases within the airports but may not step on board the plane in possession of the rupee. Should a traveler fail to surrender all of their Indian currency before boarding, Indian customs officials reserve the right to detain and prosecute as per the current rule under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).
This directive was put in place by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in 2013 and remains a strict rule up to this point in time. Because this restriction, if violated, is punishable by law, it is important that all NRI’s and foreigners leaving the country remain informed and plan accordingly when it comes to exchanging currency upon departure.